What is Cinco de Mayo?


Quick Answer

Cinco de Mayo is a Mexican holiday that celebrates the army's 1862 victory over France on May 5. While this holiday is fairly obscure in Mexico, it has become an important declaration of Mexican culture throughout other countries.

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Full Answer

Cinco de mayo became a holiday because of events that occurred in 1862. Prior to this date, the president of Mexico, Benito Juarez, was forced to get loans from other countries in order for Mexico to survive financially. When Mexico defaulted on these loans, Great Britain, France and Spain sailed to Veracruz, Mexico, to demand repayment. While two of the countries withdrew, the third one, France, dug in for the long haul. France wanted a bit of Mexico as a colony. France deployed 6,000 troops to take the land, but President Juarez was not without hope. He rounded up 2,000 men and led them against an army three times its size.

These two armies met on May 5, 1862, at the city of Puebla and battled for nearly the entire day. By the time the dust had cleared, the French had retreated, having lost 500 men. The Mexican army saw fewer than 100 casualties. Cinco de Mayo in Mexico celebrates this Battle of Puebla as a symbol of national pride. The celebration involves military parades and battle recreations.

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